That being said, I still found enough good stuff for my list of choices for the year’s ten best CDs and songs to contribute to the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll.
Don’t get me wrong, there is always good music being created. Somehow, though, 2011 was not as stellar musically as 2010.
1. BRIAN ENO with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams Small Craft On A Milk Sea — Despite the fact that he has been creating ambient music for a good 35 years, Brian Eno continues to come up with mesmerizing sounds. This crafty collection created with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams ranges from the gorgeous to the gritty, and it’s one of Eno’s best.
2. CURRENT 93 Honeysuckle Aeons — David Tibet continues his unusual metaphysical journey through this trippy, medieval sounding album (with occasional Middle Eastern influences) that finds him in a more subdued mood than his last two releases. The spiritual lyrics remain as cryptic as ever, and the use of theremin and organ here is hypnotic.
Check out the song “Cuckoo” here.
3. JOURNEY Eclipse — This band seems practically bulletproof when it comes to new singers. Journey’s second album with Arnel Pineda is more rock-oriented than its predecessor, and as guitarist Neal Schon has noted, you have to dig a little deeper for the hooks. But they’re there, with plenty of emotion to spare.
4. KRISTEEN YOUNG V The Volcanic — This seven-song release from the ever energetic Ms. Young continues her tradition of dramatic, in-your-face pop-rock with distinct vocal histrionics and often bombastic piano playing. She’s undoubtedly an acquired taste, and I have acquired it.
5. URIAH HEEP Into the Wild — These long-time British rockers provide proof that classic rock musicians can do some of their best work in their later years. It’s all here: muscular riffs, passionate vox, mature lyrics and perhaps most importantly, life experience.
6. LEAVES EYES Meredead — This German ensemble (lead by Norwegian singer Liv Kristine) continue to excel as the best of the female-fronted symphonic metal groups. And their cover of Mike Oldfield’s “To France” is fantastic.
7. CHICKENFOOT III — The classic rock supergroup ensemble of Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, Joe Satriani and Chad Smith come into their own on their sophomore effort, serving up tasty licks with some middle aged brooding on the side. The young ‘uns should take note.
8. STEVEN WILSON Grace For Drowning — This epic double album should satiate any proghead’s desire for new Steven Wilson, trippy atmospheric rock and a modern variation on King Crimson. There are so many ideas lurking within these soundscapes that it will take many, many hours to decipher them all.
9. WHITESNAKE Forevermore — David Coverdale’s voice may be grittier than before, but he and the ‘Snake still deliver with this set of rousing blues-rock anthems and ballads. This is the group’s best album since Slide It In, hands down.
10. DURAN DURAN All You Need Is Now — The Fab Five’s third album since reuniting with their classic line-up (although guitarist Andy Taylor is gone again) is fantastic. This is fun, funky stuff that sounds like it could have come out in the mid-1980s.